Leaves are out and the first of the fruit trees have blossomed. At Bull Brook Keep, the plums were first to unfurl their pale pink petals. Unfortunately, they were lured by the premature heat and were kicked back into winter by a couple of nights in the 20s. I think we lost a good 20-25% of those buds, but I think we’ll still get a good showing this summer.
The apples lagged by a couple of weeks. As I leaned in to steal a whiff of their very faint perfume, I was stopped short by the hum of bees, dozens of them hovering over the nearest branch. I was glad to see them because without these busy actors the flowers would not be pollinated and we wouldn’t enjoy apples come September.
Attracting birds and insects to our farm and vegetable garden is critical to our sustainable enterprise. They are important contributors to our pastures and to our grass-fed beef operation. We need them to help fertilize our clovers, herbs, veggies and fruit trees, and we simply enjoy their presence on the farm. We’ve got blue jays and bright red cardinals, bright blue birds, martins, cat birds, a variety of hawks, and a couple of pairs of sandhill cranes. There are also grackles, robins, pheasants, black-capped chickadees, barn swallows and tree swallows, kill deers and bobolinks, and ruby-thoated hummingbirds. Those are the few I recognize. I know there are lots others I’ve yet to learn.
We try to keep them coming to our fields in a couple of ways:
- by not using pesticides and insecticides that can harm them directly, or kill off the plants and insects they feed on, and
- by increasing the diversity of shrubs, trees and plants, especially of those varieties known to attract them
This year, we’re adding blueberry, gooseberry and honeyberry bushes, additional coneflowers lots more herbs, and several more raspberry bushes.
Here are just a few references from Mother Earth News that may help you attract birds and bees to your garden or farm:
- Bee Gardens: Flowers, fruits and herbs for a bee-friendly habitat, bit.ly/IKIlXV
- Make Your Garden a Bird Habitat, bit.ly/8YYbM0
- How to Grow a Hummingbird Garden, http://www.motherearthnews.com/Nature-Community/2007-08-01/How-to-Grow-a-Hummingbird-Garden.aspx
- Bird Feeders with Roots, about planting shrubs and trees, bit.ly/IKM9sf
There’s still lots of time to plant veggies and to tuck a small shrub or fruiting bush in the yard.
Let me know what you’re adding to your garden or farm hedgerow.